Friday, June 22, 2007

And the Good Times Just Keep On Keepin' On

Well, OK, the good times may be losing a little steam now that our house guests have departed and Nels is cultivating the delightful new habit of feigning deafness ("Oh, I'm sorry mommy, I didn't hear you") or abject stupidity (he just stares at me blankly as though I'm speaking Farsi) when I tell him something he doesn't want to hear or ask him a question unrelated to ice cream. On the bright side, Willem is slowly reducing the spider population of our house as he "befriends" each one that crosses his path. "Uh oh," he says gravely, handing me his latest victim. "Spider."

But that's now, and this post is about then. The past week, that is. If you had only a fraction of the fun that we did around these parts, then you are fortunate souls, indeed.

My mom and sister came for a visit last Friday. My mom stayed Friday and Saturday night before driving back to Bend, and my sister stayed with us until Wednesday. Here are some highlights:

Visiting the Saturday Market with Grandma

For once the crowd didn't bother me; it made the whole excursion festive and worthy of showing to an out-of-towner. We purchased sugar snap peas from a nice lady, a surprisingly delicious walnut and pecan pie from a booth manned by several elderly gentlemen who only had two pies left, some robot prints for Nels' room from a nice mom my age whom I intend to visit every week until she becomes my friend, and dry-aged ground beef for Father's Day from the most earnest red-headed girl I have ever encountered. If she wasn't home schooled, I'll eat my hat. Once I get one. Having the giant stroller prevented me from sampling much, but we did buy some mini doughnuts (aka Nels' bribe) and tried some rabbit nuggets. Yep. Rabbit. Nuggets. Delicious.

Father's Day Father's Office Extravaganza

The goal of our Father's Day festivities was to recreate our favorite burger of all time, which hails from Father's Office in Santa Monica. Shaun had previously found the recipe online, and I figured that Father's Day was the perfect time to make the attempt. We were lucky to have my sister around, as she is the one who introduced us to the burger and has recreated it herself many times.

I really didn't help in the kitchen beyond pointing people to the tools they needed. Shaun headed up the shoestring fry operation while Hillary made the onion compote. I washed the arugula. Our attempt was valiant but not 100% successful. The meat was not fatty enough and was already packed too tightly upon purchase. We didn't have a big enough pot for frying and had to do it in tiny batches. Our olive oil turned out to be a bit too olive-y for the garlic aioli that accompanied the fries. But, really, a burger with caramelized onion and bacon compote, Maytag blue cheese, Gruyere and arugula is going to be wonderful even if it isn't perfect. We spent all day in the kitchen nibbling hot fries as they came out of the oil and finally sat down to our burgers accompanied by an assortment of various Chimay ales.
'Twas fun.

Night on the Town

My sister and I got to escape for one night and of course we made the most of it. We put on our fancy shoes and headed downtown. First we went to Bardenay on the Basque block and shared a remarkably good plate of prawns and chips. Huge, juicy, tender prawns. We washed it down with one of the best martinis I've ever had and a cream ale. (We shared those too.) Next stop was Pair where I was anticipating trying their "Ding Dong" dessert and having my new almost favorite cocktail, a French 75. The drinks were disappointing but the cake was scrumptious, despite the fact that it was missing the cream filling that was mentioned explicitly in the menu description and implied by the cake's name.

Next stop: The Flicks, Boise's independent movie theatre. In a spectacular case of good timing, the movie Paris, Je t'aime was playing, and I got to see a film comprised of love stories set in each of Paris' neighborhoods with my sister who will be spending the summer in Paris and bought me a plane ticket to visit. Under these circumstances, it would have been very difficult not to love the movie. Which we did. Each of the five minute segments has a different director. Though disparate in tone and style, the segments worked together to make a very enjoyable movie. And I had the pleasure **SPOILER!** of watching Elijah Wood fatally falling down a flight of scenic Parisian stairs. I confess that I have had it in for him ever since he botched the portrayal of one of my favorite Hobbits. But that's another rant for another day.

Giddy with the anticipation of our upcoming Gallic adventures, we weren't quite ready to head home after the movie. Instead we settled on stopping at Pengilly's, an old-timey bar whose patrons seemed all to be regulars and at least ten years older than us. This bar received a small write-up in Esquire magazine, which was as surprising to the folks who run Pengilly's as it would be to anyone who happened to wander in. As we dithered over choosing our beverages, the bartender told me to keep in mind that if I decided on a beer he couldn't pour it any stronger than it comes out of the bottle. This I found charming. Hillary and I had an interesting conversation about writing, despite the fact that we were interrupted by a boorish, mustachioed man who wanted to listen in. One lift of the eyebrow and jerk of the thumb indicating the offender was enough to bring the bartender to our rescue and rid us of the nuisance. It was certainly an atypical Monday night for me in Boise.

Basque Food at Epi's and Elsewhere

We don't often venture out to restaurants with the whole family, but we decided to give it a go, as Epi's has a reputation for being family friendly. It certainly is. What was most remarkable about this venture was that Nels, age 3 3/4, happily ate calamari, Willem, age 20 months, ate lamb, and my sister, age not really pertinent, ate tongue. I actually tried it, which was a lot more noteworthy than her ordering it. She is brave. On a day of shopping downtown, we wandered into the Basque market and had fun exploring. The orange-almond slushy we got was perfect for the 90 degree day. And we bought some soft, ricotta-like cheese that made a divine breakfast when topped by honey and walnuts.

Having an Over-Qualified Houseguest

My sister just got her MA in library science and seemed to enjoy picking out some books for the boys from the Boise Library which they in turn are greatly enjoying. She also works at a children's bookstore and brought many wonderful gifts of books for us. She and my mom were kind enough to read these books to the kids over and over during their visit. Hillary entertained the boys by playing the guitar and singing, teaching them new songs and taking requests for old favorites (IE the B-I-B-L-E.)

As if that all weren't enough, she is a great cook who also has a part-time job assisting at a professional cooking school. Not to mention she's good company. If you can swing having this sort of houseguest, I highly recommend it.

Now that the guests have departed, the house is emptier and Nels is coming off the extra-attention high, which is a very painful withdrawal indeed. Yikes. A lovely dinner with friends tonight helped to take the sting out. And a summer evening in Boise is a very fine thing indeed.

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